Are you beginning to see several points of view about KM in your work?
As knowledge workers, we’re exposed to (and are positioned to react to) a wide range of perspectives about how knowledge is managed in the workplace.
I’m becoming more and more aware that colleagues (both knowledge workers and “others” – whoever these “others” might be!) are thinking about KM, knowledge services, and knowledge strategy in many different ways.
Would it be helpful if we shared some of these different perspectives with one another?
As for me, I’m thinking there are probably four ways people think about KM and how we manage knowledge. Naturally, since we focus on knowledge services in most of the work our company does, I’m a little prejudiced toward knowledge services. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to hear what other people are finding. Indeed, I’m very anxious to hear about how the whole KM “picture” is interpreted in different workplace situations.
Here’s what I’m seeing. Think about these and share your observations.
1. KM as part of the ICT/IT infrastructure. In many organizations, knowledge management is the result of or otherwise intimately connected with information technology. No one questions the incredibly powerful ICT/IT role in KM, but I’m still a little surprised to run across people who equate managing knowledge with ICT/IT. Certainly information technology supplies the pipeline (to take up again that old analogy). And the product that passes through the pipeline is the information people need, the information they must work with to turn into knowledge or, if it has already been generated as knowledge, to re-use to create new knowledge. But don’t ICT/IT and KM work in tandem? Or are they merging into one line of work?
2. KM = Working with knowledge. Prusak and Davenport’s classic definition of KM (“working with knowledge”) seems to capture what the concept means to most people, and in many cases, organizations define a knowledge manager as an employee who excels at understanding the role of knowledge development and knowledge sharing (KD/KS) in the company, particularly in connection with a particular discipline or subject specialty. Perhaps that point of view makes the best sense. If I’m a chemist and I am also exceptionally well skilled at KD/KS within the chemical industry, doesn’t that qualify me as a “knowledge manager”? Certainly within the organization it makes me a valuable employee.
3. Knowledge services. Which leads to that broader way of thinking about KM that works for many people and organizations: converging information management, KM, and strategic learning as an enterprise-wide management methodology. Moving in this direction ensures not only that knowledge is managed for the benefit of the larger company or organization. Equally important (or almost as important) is the development or strengthening of an organizational knowledge culture: all stakeholders recognize their responsibilities with respect to developing and sharing knowledge.
4. Knowledge strategy matches business strategy. Then there is that almost-ideal scenario in which corporate leadership recognizes the value of KD/KS in organizational effectiveness. In doing so, an articulated knowledge strategy provides guidance for all employees and affiliates, and – when appropriate – a senior manager has responsibility for ensuring that all information management, knowledge management, and strategic learning leads in one direction, in support of the corporate mission. And while characterizing this management framework as “ideal” might be a little bit of an overstatement, the framework is remarkably achievable, once senior management is educated about and committed to the KD/KS function.
So what works for you? In your workplace, does one or another of the above describe what happens at your place of business? Are you combining all (or some) of the above? Or is there a totally different situation where you work?
- Guy St. Clair